Fourth-ranked Hoover went on the road and proved something Tuesday night.
The Huskies just won’t find out what that something is until the postseason begins next week.
Battling size and experience at hungry Dowling Catholic, Hoover emerged with a 51-47 victory.
“At this point in the season, we’re concerning ourselves with ourselves and trying to put together the best basketball we can,” Hoover coach Courtney Henderson said.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight down the stretch, but we found a way.”
Scoring 23 fourth-quarter points and making its breaks along the way, Hoover (18-1) needed an Alijah Thomas free throw with 3.7 seconds left to seal the pivotal CIML win.
Senior guard Chris King poured in 11 of his game-high 19 points in the final frame.
“We wanted to make a statement,” King said. “We stayed patient and let the game come to us.”
CIML BOYS: Tuesday’s results
A gigantic Waukee lineup ended Hoover’s undefeated start last Tuesday, and the Metro Conference champions responded against Dowling’s post duo of Ted Brown and Ben Olson. The Maroons (13-7) struggled to score in a slow game filled with aggressive defenses, but even when they earned a 32-25 lead late in third quarter, they failed to flip their losing script.
Olson led Dowling with 16 points and nine rebounds.
“We were just trying to keep them off-balance,” Dowling coach Mike O’Connor said. “Defensively we got stretched, but they’ve got some good players and when you get down to Hoover, it gets really hard.”
Hoover shot Dowling out of different zone defenses with 3-pointers, punctuated by King’s half-court bank shot at the halftime buzzer. Brown and Olson scored 14 of Dowling’s 18 points in the plodding first half, but their ample post-up opportunities were closed down later.
“Dowling put together a heck of a gameplan and I thought they executed very well, but we found a way to gut it out,” Henderson said.
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The Huskies led 48-41 with 1:01 remaining when the desperate home team started clawing back. Brendan Dougherty’s corner 3-pointer cut the lead to 48-47 with 14.3 left, but couldn’t prevent the Maroons from their seventh loss in the last 10 games.
“This is the best we’ve played in awhile,” O’Connor said. “I know the kids are frustrated. They’re working hard in practice and in some of the losses we’ve had, the other teams have done so many good things that it’s overwhelming and we’re wondering when are things going to go back our direction. We’ve got to fight through it and get tougher.
“I think we took a step towards that tonight, but obviously it wasn’t good enough.”
Hoover plays at No. 5 Urbandale on Thursday. Dowling and Hoover have first-round byes and begin their postseason play on Feb. 27.
HOOVER (51)— Edwards 6, Thomas 12, King 19, Lee 6, Wilson 8. Also played—Thedford, Marschel, Quinn. Totals 16 12-15.
DOWLING (47)— Strain 3, Olson 16, McMurray 8, Scieszinski 5, Brown 10, Sarcone 1, Dougherty 3. Also played—Fardal. Totals 17 7-11.
Hoover…7 16 5 23—51
Dowling…9 9 14 15—47
3-point goals—Hoover 7 (King 3, Thomas 2, Edwards 2), Dowling 5 (Strain, Olson, McMurray, Scieszinski, Dougherty). Fouls—Hoover 15, Dowling 14.